Hugh Jackman sent the Swiss city of Zurich into a tizzy over the weekend when he made his way into town to accept the festival’s Golden Icon Award and kickoff the screening to his latest box-office hit “Prisoners,” directed by “Incendies” filmmaker Denis Villenueve (also in town) and co-starring one of the festival’s main jury members, Melissa Leo.
For Jackman, his role in “Prisoners” as a father who takes justice into his own hands after his daughter goes missing, marks another career triumph for the actor following his Oscar-nominated turn in last year’s “Les Miserables,” proving that there’s life for the Australian star after Wolverine.
Prior to greeting a slew of fans camped out at the festival’s main theater, the Corso, Jackman sat down with a select group of journalists to discuss “Prisoners,” how he handles fame, reuniting with Bryan Singer for the upcoming summer blockbuster “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” among other things. Below are the top 10 things he revealed.
Jackman doesn’t subscribe to the method style of acting.
“I don’t stay in character. I can’t say I was fully relaxed though at the end of the day [on ‘Prisoners’]. Acting is the greatest privilege. You get to inhabit lives and you get to touch real emotions. That’s the job and at the end of the day; you’re calm like you played a great game of rugby. And then at the same time you’re going, OK we’re going to climb that mountain again tomorrow.”
Despite his fame, Jackman just wants to be normal.
“I try to live my life as normally as possible. My father was an accountant. Nobody asked what he did in his life or cared. I just want to make sure that my kids have a normal life. I don’t want them to be paranoid about going out. So that’s my basic philosophy. I don’t want to walk around with security guards. There may be dangers for my kids, but I’m a realist as well. I understand that perhaps some situations aren’t normal, and some you have to be careful about – it’s something my wife and I talk about all the time. I just try to be as normal as I can. If I can’t be normal, I won’t have them there.”
He doesn’t feel boxed in, though some might see him that way.
“In film and certainly when I go outside of New York or America, I’m very well known for Wolverine. I forget people don’t know that I did a play with Daniel Craig where I played a similar character to this one. I did a year doing a musical playing Peter Allen, who was a very gay, flamboyant man. Or Gaston in ‘Beauty in the Beast.’ So for me I don’t feel boxed in. But I feel that there’s a danger around the world that playing Wolverine is all that I can do.
“Day to day it doesn’t feel frustrating. I’m surprised by everything that’s happened in my career. If it was just Wolverine, I’d be grateful for that. I was just hoping to pay the rent as an actor. I never thought I’d make a career out of it.”
He wasn’t scared to take on the role in “Prisoners,” even as a father.
“I wasn’t scared of that. When I watch a movie I don’t care about that. I find it very hard to be shocked. As an actor I feel going into darkness is important. We need to look at that. What scared me was going into it with the wrong director. I did not sign on till Denis signed on. I could see where it could go, but it needed the right director to get there.”
He hasn’t and won’t show “Prisoners” to his kids until they’re ready.
“It’s R-rated for a very good reason. I think it’s a very adult film – I’m talking about the message; it throws up a lot of messages. For a child I think it’d be very unsettling to have a lot of those grey areas. There was no clear heroes or answers in this. I think it can be very confusing for a child actually.”
Jackman came very close to hitting Paul Dano with a hammer during the shooting of an interrogation scene.
“Here’s the truth: I was exhausted. Denis would love to run the camera, so he would run it for days. I remember thinking I’m out, I’m out of energy, my gas tank is done. I also remember thinking, thank God, that was the take, we got it. But Denis said, ‘No.’ It hit me then that what the scene requires is abandon. None of those lines are in the script, none of the hitting the wall. I just said roll the camera and I just sat there and waited and then we just went. And at the end it shocked hell out of me. What really shocked me was how close I was to Paul Dano’s head with that bloody hammer. I was way too close. Now watching that scene I can’t believe how Paul did not flinch. He just faints really quietly. I had gone into a weird place. It was just abandon.”
He has his faults.
“If I can criticize myself as actor, sometimes my head can get in the way. I really noticed in Jake [Gyllenhaal’ he has a great ability to be instinctive on camera, even though he prepares a lot. In this film, more than any other, I was able to let things go.
“You always have to risk failing. I mean look at ‘Movie 43.’ I ran into one of the producers the other day and he said, ‘Man I have two things to say to you: I’m sorry.’ But it was just two days of life with Kate Winslet and balls hanging from my face. So it wasn’t that bad.”
He says that he doesn’t make as much as he is rumored to as the Wolverine.
“I’ve been audited every year of my life. Publications always speculate how much I’m paid and it’s always wildly wrong, let me tell you. They always think there’s some hanky-panky going on there.”
Jackman’s uneasy about his wealth.
“My wife’s taught me a lot about money. We didn’t have a lot of money when we first met. I was at the Royal National Theater earning 375 pounds a week and I was as happy as I am now. Money doesn’t make me happy. I sometimes get embarrassed about it. I sometimes feel a burden about it. Also how do you bring up kids with that? But my wife says I have the wrong attitude about it. Money is like energy. She said don’t waste your life being embarrassed about it; use it wisely.”
He has a deep respect for Bryan Singer.
“It’s always special working with Bryan on this character. He gave me the break. He’s a brilliant director and taught me some really important things which I’ve taken to this day. You’ve got to come onto a film set with a lot of ideas and decisions about how you want to play it. I can tell you right now he’s made a great movie.”